Dear Frotog,

I don't think we need to make this contentious. Drew did NOT insinuate that Eggelston had low standards nor that all labs produce mediocre prints. He only observed, correctly, that the latter can be true and he did not know what Eggleston's standards were for these prints.

I can testify that I have seen some very crappy exhibits from photographers I would expect otherwise from. The last exhibit I saw of Elliot Porter dye transfers while he was still alive, his Antarctic (or was it arctic? lotsa ice, whichever), was terrible. I won't mince words. The prints were crap. Obviously bad color and tone, poorly spotted. They were completely substandard. Obviously they weren't made under his direct hand or supervision, unless he was losing it. But regardless who printed them, inexplicably (to me) they'd been deemed satisfactory for public exhibit.

So, even the best of folks, with sterling reputations, can have bad shows. It's a fair question to raise when you see something that didn't impress-- what went wrong, and where.

And, medium and subject matter come into play, as already mentioned. I could probably get consensus agreement that I'm the best dye transfer printer of color negative who ever existed; I know I'm much, much better than any other work I've ever seen. But from slides? I'm good. But only just good. I'm a more meticulous and cleaner printer than almost anyone else out there -- the only prints I've seen that technically were as good as mine were ones done for Mapplethorpe. (Coincidentally, I met the fellow who printed those a few years back. I told him how impressed I was.) But as for the aesthetic qualities, like tone and color rendition, there were many printers who were better than me, were better at masking, that kind of thing.

When it's a process as complex as dye transfer, no one has ever mastered it all.

And, now that I think on it, I'd have to say the same about digital printing. The physical high bar to making good prints has been removed (hurrah!), but the range of controls and techniques available to the digital printer makes dye transfer feel like chromogenic printing. There is so much more one can learn to improve one's results.

Which is one big reason it excites my muse.

pax / Ctein